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Old Images for New Texts and Contexts: Wandering Images in Islamic Book Painting 

Author(s): Serpil Bagci 

Reviewed work(s): 

Source: Muqarnas, Vol. 21, Essays in Honor of J". M. Rogers (2004), pp. 21-32 

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The main characteristic of the art of painting in the 
Islamic world — be it in a manuscript, in an album, or 
on a wall — is its dependence, directly or indirectly, on 
a textual or oral narrative. The most important sources 
for the thematic inspiration of Islamic painting have 
predominantly been the masterpieces of Persian lit- 
erature. The iconographic canons of Islamic painting 
were founded on repeatedly copying core texts and 
freely circulating interrelated networks of images. On 
the one hand, the scenes, figures, settings, and symbols 
that were developed around these models provided 
artists with a repertory of ready-made images; on the 
other hand, they restricted artists in establishing new 
iconographic and stylistic interpretations. The possibil- 
ity for images to "wander" through different texts and 
serve as visual markers largely depended on the artist's 
skills and his iconographical interpretation. I have dis- 
cussed elsewhere how Muslim painters responded to 
well-known imagery to formulate their own archetypes 
and visually modify established ones. 1 In this essay, I will 
examine how some Ottoman painters used both earlier 
and contemporary images in highly innovative ways to 
invent their own paintings. Here, I will introduce an- 
other method of adoption of earlier images — the art of 
collage, both pictorial and literal. This method allowed 
the artist to transform the images developed for one 
narrative to illustrate another, or to actually cut out 
the images from one manuscript and paste them into 
a different one. 

The first group consists of imagery inspired by both 
written and oral sources available to the painter that 
were modified into "new" representations. Although it 
is generally assumed that the subject matter of a book 
painting is understood by referring to the accompa- 
nying narrative, it is not always possible to decipher 
the theme of a painting or some of the iconographic 
details by merely reading the text. The rich icono- 
graphic themes and associations available to both the 
artist and the viewer is often no longer entirely clear 
as many visual codes have lost their direct or indirect 

meaning within the constant change in cultural refer- 
ences. One should, therefore, investigate other visual 
or textual sources that informed the collective mem- 
ory of the painter. 2 

A lavishly illustrated copy of the iskenderndme of the 
Ottoman poet Ahmedi (d. 1413), which is now housed 
in Venice Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana (attributed to 
1460-70, and to the Ottoman city of Edirne), 3 includes 
two paintings of the mi raj, or miraculous ascension to 
heaven, of the Prophet Muhammad. From the four- 
teenth century on, representations of the mi raj appear 
in several different literary texts. Except for small varia- 
tions, the main iconographical scheme of these scenes 
hardly changes. In earlier examples, the Prophet's face 
is shown, while in later ones, it is replaced by a flam- 
ing halo and veil; in some instances, his whole body is 
shown as a holy light. He rides on his human-headed 
mule, Buraq, and is escorted by Archangel Gabriel, who 
leads the way. At times, the city of Mecca and the Ka c ba 
are depicted in the lower part of the painting. 

One of the two depictions of the mi raj in the Venice 
Iskenderndme follows the traditional model. 4 The other 
painting, however, introduces new details (fig. 1). In 
the painting, the sky is filled with angels, golden stars, 
and clouds, while the riderless Buraq stands in the cen- 
ter. With his finger in his mouth, a generic gesture of 
astonishment, the angel Gabriel gazes at the Prophet. 
At the upper left, the unveiled Prophet, standing in 
a halo of golden flame, is looking towards the right, 
where a hand set in golden light has appeared. In the 
text, the mi raj is mentioned twice, but none of the 
verses explain the meaning of the extended hand. 

The possible narrative and pictorial sources for this 
unusual element can be traced to earlier and contem- 
porary works. For instance, a sixteenth-century Turkish 
translation of Ma dricul-nubilvve (Ascensions of Prophet- 
hood) , written a century earlier by Mu c in of Herat, in- 
forms us about "the hand" and its possible meaning in 
the painting. According to the text, during the mi raj, 
when the Angel Gabriel leads the Prophet to safety 



Fig. 1. Mi raj of the Prophet Muhammad. Ahmedi, iskenderndme. 
Venice, Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, Cod. or. 57, fol. 192a. 

in the Sidretii'l-munteha (Seventh Heaven), he departs, 
claiming that this is the last place he is allowed to enter, 
and that "if he goes forward a finger further, he would 
be burned." Following these words, the text relates that 
another angel extends his hand from a veil and takes 
in the Prophet. 5 Although the hand is not specifically 
mentioned, another Ottoman text, written by a con- 
temporary of Ahmedi, refers to the angel helping the 
Prophet to the other side of a veil. 6 The artist's inclu- 
sion of this iconographic element must have been in- 
spired by one of these texts or by the traditions from 
which they stemmed, which were familiar to the col- 
lective cultural memory. Ernst Grube has suggested 
that the source for the extended hand may have been 
early Christian and Byzantine paintings. 7 As it is al- 
most certain that no Muslim painter would depict the 

hand of God in flesh, Christian religious images could 
have served as a model for the Ottoman artist's curious 
iconographic addition. Although we cannot be certain 
if the artist had visited a church or seen a Christian il- 
lustrated manuscript first-hand, it is tempting to pro- 
pose that Christian religious imagery was known among 
Muslims in the fifteenth century. This unusual repre- 
sentation of the Prophet's night journey attests to the 
availability of diverse visual and literary sources that 
formed the artist's visual memory. Moreover, he did 
not automatically translate the given text into picture, 
but his response to it was enriched by several pictorial 
and iconographic sources. 

In another illustration from Ahmedi's Iskenderndme, 
mentioned earlier, both the author and the painter 
adopt a previously established model. The main liter- 
ary sources for Ahmedi constituted Iskandar's relatively 
short life-story in Shahndma of Firdawsi (d. 1020?), and 
the Iskandarndma, the long masnavt of Nizami (d. 1209?). 
In the selection of themes and iconography, the illustra- 
tive programs of Ahmedi's iskenderndme also rely heavily 
on the models developed for both the Iskandar cycle in 
the Shahndma and Nizami's Iskandarndma. For instance, 
in several chapters in Ahmedi's poem, Iskender' s feats 
of slaying gigantic dragons are narrated, in order to 
portray his extraordinary powers and intelligence. In 
one of these stories Iskender, after conquering India, 
spends his time hosting courdy gatherings and enjoy- 
ing the springtime. During one of the royal celebra- 
tions, an envoy from Sind arrives, complaining about 
a dragon that has inflicted great suffering on all the 
men and animals of his country. Iskender accepts the 
envoy's invitation to Sind to save the people from their 
misery. After observing the creature's habits for a while, 
Iskender constructs a wooden chariot with a thousand 
iron hooks coated with poison. He drinks the antidote 
for the poison on the hooks, enters the carriage, and 
drives toward the dragon, who attacks the oxen pulling 
the cart. At this moment, Iskender slashes the dragon 
with his sword. The enraged creature now tries to attack 
the carriage itself, but the poisoned hooks penetrate his 
mouth and head. Iskender dismounts and delivers the 
last, lethal wounds to the dragon, first with his sword 
and then with his arrow. 8 The painting in the Venice 
manuscript (fol. 90b) includes all the iconographic 
details of the text (fig. 2). 

A similar event, accomplished by a different famed 
protagonist, Prince Isfandiyar, occurs in Firdawsi 's 
Shahndma. Isfandiyar, the son of Shah Gushtasp, has 
to undergo seven dangerous ordeals on his way to the 



Fig. 3. Isfandiyar kills the dragon. Firdawsi, Shahnama. Istanbul, 
Topkapi Palace Library, H. 1509, fol. 213a. 

Fig. 2. Iskender kills the dragon in Sind. Ahmedi, Iskenderndme. 
Venice, Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, Cod. or. 57, fol. 90b. 

Brazen Hold. His aim is to rescue his sisters, who have 
been imprisoned and held by the Turanian Arjasp. His 
third ordeal comprises slaying a vicious dragon. As 
with Ahmedi's Iskender, the prince has a horse-pulled 
wooden carriage with swords protruding from its sides. 
When Isfandiyar meets the dragon, the monster tries 
to devour the entire chariot, but the blades stick in its 
throat. Weakened by loss of blood, the creature finally 
succumbs to Isfandiyar. 9 Ahmedi therefore appropriates 
Isfandiyar's attributes, with some minor modifications, 
for his own hero, Iskender, to underline his courage 
and skill. Like the poet, the artist, probably working in 
Edirne, has drawn on the visual models developed for 
the Isfandiyar story in the Shahnama. When comparing 

the illustration in the Venice Ahmedi to one of the 
numerous representations of Isfandiyar's feat in the 
Shahnama (fig. 3) , one can observe their shared iconog- 
raphy, even though the styles are quite different. Thus, 
both poet and artist appropriate a series of established 
literary and pictorial elements and transfer them to a 
different context, where they acquire new meanings 
and associations. Ahmedi's poem was composed both as 
an account of the legendary life story of Iskender and as 
an encyclopedic compendium of medieval knowledge. 
In creating his narrative, the author/ poet used several 
scientific texts available to him. One of the most impor- 
tant sources of his chapters on geographical, astrologi- 
cal, botanical, and other scientific fields was probably 
the c Ajaib al-makhluqat wa-gharaib al-mawjudat (The 
Wonders of Creation and the Peculiarities of Existing 
Things) of Qazwini (1203-83). Ahmedi's exposure to 
Qazwini and other geographical texts must have played 
an important role in the stories in which the marvels 







Fig. 4. Iskender seizes the crystal castle guarded by dog-headed Fig. 5. Dog-headed inhabitant of Saksar Island. Qazwini, c Ajaib 
creatures. Ahmedi, hkenderndme, Istanbul, Topkapi Palace Li- al-makhluqdt wa-gharaib al-maxvjudat. Istanbul, Topkapi Palace 
brary, H. 679, fol. 188b. Library, R. 1659, fol. 42b. 

of creation take part as secondary characters. In fact, 
Ahmedi was not alone in using these anecdotes: even 
the earliest Greek Alexander romances contain tales in 
which Alexander encounters such marvels, who reside 
in exotic islands of the eastern seas. 10 Ahmedi's work 
continues to be a part of this intertextuality by describ- 
ing Iskender's adventures in these islands, which he 
usually conquers after confronting and fighting with 
the inhabitants. The strange physical features and hab- 
its of these foreign populations were already known to 
the poet and his audience through encyclopedic texts 
such as Qazwini's. This familiar body of literature also 
informed contemporary visual culture: like the author, 
the painter utilized these geographical and encyclo- 
pedic texts, at times repeating and replicating their 

illustrations, and at times adding new protagonists and 
motifs and adapting them to the new texts. 

In one of the Ahmedi's stories about Iskender, the 
hero is on an exotic Indian island, where he attempts 
to conquer a crystal castle guarded by creatures with 
human bodies and dog heads. 11 A painting in a copy 
of the hkenderndme dated to 1500 and attributed 
to Turkman Shiraz illustrates this anecdote (fig. 4). 12 
The dog-headed inhabitants defending the magical 
castle are identical to the ones in a contemporary 
illustrated copy of Qazwini's c Ajaib al-makhluqdt, also 
from Shiraz (fig. 5). While identifying the original 
image is difficult (and not necessarily important for my 
purpose here), both of these images clearly originate 
from a common visual repertory. 



few ^f^'s&yfJ-cfJ 




" • •• /V* /'f 

Fig. 6. Soft-legged inhabitant of Saksar Island and the sailor. 
Qazwini, c Ajaib al-makhluqat wa-gharaib al-mawjudat. Istanbul, 
Topkapi Palace Library, R. 1659, fol. 48b. 

Although Ahmedi does not give the name of the 
island where the dog-headed people live, Qazwini intro- 
duces them, through a sailor who informs the traveler 
Ya c qub about them, as residents of Saksar Island in the 
Sea of Zanzibar. These wild creatures capture strangers 
and fatten them until they are ready to be devoured. 
Warned by an older captive, the sailor avoids eating 
and survives because he remains unappetizing to the 
creatures. He finally escapes by hiding under the trees, 
where the dog-headed people cannot reach him, and 
arrives in an area with different fruit trees inhabited 
by handsome creatures. One of them jumps on his 
shoulders, firmly locks his soft, boneless legs around 
the sailor's neck, and drives him like an animal from 

one tree to another so that he may eat fruit. Even when 
blinded by a tree branch, the creature does not release 
the sailor, who finally escapes by making his captor 
drink an excessive amount of "grape juice," which loos- 
ens his legs. 13 Ahmedi also adopts the concept of the 
"soft legs" for one of the adventures of Iskender: return- 
ing from Russia, the hero fights in Khorasan with an 
army of demons, and in the course of a violent battle, 
one of them jumps onto his shoulders, wraps his legs 
like a "strap of leather" around iskender's neck, and 
does not let him to move; Iskender can neither speak 
nor recite the prayer invoking help. Finally, when the 
hero thinks he is doomed to fail, an angel descends 
from the heavens and releases him. 14 

The painting depicting Iskender and the leather- 
strap-legged demon in the Venice Iskendemame recalls 
the Saksar Island native driving the sailor (fig. 6), 
except for iskender's horse (fig. 7) . The iconographic 
similarity of the two illustrations suggests once more the 
existence of a common and established imagery, which 
must have guided artists illustrating different texts as to 
which scenes to depict and how to render them in the 
canonical iconographic mode. By adopting and recast- 
ing certain images according to the narration of the 
new text, artists transferred them from one manuscript 
to another and, more importantly, developed new ver- 
sions of them. 

The second group of images migrating from one 
text to another differs in terms of technique and meth- 
ods of adaptation. Here, new images were created by 
literally pasting existing works into new contexts. The 
practice of assembling paintings and calligraphic works 
into an album has had a long tradition in the Islamic 
lands. Originating in Timurid Iran in the fifteenth cen- 
tury, the creation of albums — collections of separate 
folios, whether paintings or calligraphy, that were not 
integral parts of books or texts — had spread to Otto- 
man Turkey and become an important genre of artistic 
expression by the mid-sixteenth century. Although the 
examples I will discuss are related to this album tradi- 
tion in terms of technique, 15 they are quite different in 
concept and intention: in these cases, the artist takes 
an earlier manuscript illustration or some element of 
it and pastes it into a different manuscript, either on 
its own or in combination with other cut-out images, 
to illustrate a new narrative. 

The first examples of this technique are from the 
earliest extant illustrated copy of Ahmedi's iskendemame, 
apparently the first illustrated manuscript produced for 
Ottoman patrons. Now in the Bibliotheque nationale 



Fig. 7. Leather-strap-legged demon and iskender. Ahmedi, 
iskenderndme. Venice, Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, Cod. or. 
57, fol. 179a. 

de France, it was completed in 1416, in the most im- 
portant Ottoman provincial city of the age, Amasya. 16 
Only three of its twenty-one illustrations are painted on 
the pages of the manuscript. To fill the spaces reserved 
for the other illustrations, the rest consist of pasted-on 
fragments put together to form a scene, with added 
plain colors and plant or floral decoration. One of 
these collage paintings (fol. 134b) depicts the arrival of 
Iskender on Rayic Island in the Indian Ocean (fig. 8). 
In this composition, only the ships and the sea with fish 
are actually painted on the page; the figures have been 
cut from at least two different illustrated manuscripts 
typical of Inju and Jalayirid ateliers of the fourteenth 
century. The artist of the Iskenderndme manuscript has 

Fig. 8. Iskender goes to Rayic Island. Ahmedi, Iskenderndme. 
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France, Ms. or. turc 309, fol. 

excised an enthronement scene, probably from either 
a copy of the Shdhndma or one of the historical texts 
abundantly produced in both Shiraz and Baghdad dur- 
ing the fourteenth century. He has then pasted the 
image of the enthroned ruler flanked by his courtiers 
onto his own painting of the ship, and those of other 
figures available to him onto the other ships, thus 
transforming the scene into one depicting iskender 
and his courtiers exploring the Indian Ocean. In fact, 
the collage illustration relates directly to the verses 
above the painting, which explain iskender's curiosity 



for marvels, and how his men worked day and night 
to construct the ships, and that when the ships were 
ready, he set off for his quest. 17 

Another painting (fol. 333a) from the same manu- 
script depicts the bier of Iskender and the mourning of 
his death (fig. 9). According to the text, when Iskender 
understands that his death is close, he writes a letter 
to his mother, Rukiya, to comfort her and to request 
that his coffin be taken to Egypt and buried. When 
his body is brought to his house in Egypt, Rukiya ap- 
proaches his coffin, rests her head on it, and mourns 
for her son. Later, the sages recite laments for him. 18 
The painting, which is in extremely damaged condi- 
tion, has been assembled in accordance with the nar- 
rative. The setting was actually painted on the page by 
the artist of the iskenderndme; it shows a coffin in front 
of a niche with two candlesticks and a lamp, all drawn 
horizontally. A figure of a woman is pasted diagonally 
on the coffin, to represent Rukiya leaning over it. The 
"grieving" men and women consist of seated figures cut 
from other manuscripts. In order to lend the painting 
a sense of visual uniformity, the ground of both the 
original painting and the pasted fragments is covered 
with a single color. 

Another Ottoman manuscript, a three-volume prose 
translation of the Shahnama of Firdawsi now in Istan- 
bul University Library, includes illustrations created in 
the same manner. 19 The text is not a literal translation 
of the Shahnama and comprises several abbreviations 
and interpolations. 20 According to the colophon at 
the end of the first volume (fol. 569a) , it was copied 
in Ramadan 1187 (November 1773) by Seyyid Dervis. 
Mustafa. For its illustrations, paintings in various styles 
were taken from at least ten manuscripts of different 
texts, including the Persian Shahnama and its Turkish 
translations. Considered thematically appropriate for 
the new volume, most of these paintings were used 
without any change, or with minor additions in accor- 
dance with the text. 

A late-sixteenth or early-seventeenth-century Safa- 
vid painting of a royal reception scene portrays an 
enthroned ruler conversing with courtiers. It is reused 
to illustrate a specific enthronement scene, with only 
slight modification: a veil introduced to hide the face 
of the figure sitting on the throne (fig. 10). The Turk- 
ish text claims that the ruler Bahman has died leaving 
no heir to the throne except his pregnant wife. His 
viziers and noblemen decide to enthrone Bahman' s 
wife Humay until she gives birth to the future ruler. 
Humay sits on the throne "with a veil on her face" and 

'Jffa * \V /, \ 

tw > I m 

Fig. 9. Mourning at the bier of Iskender. Ahmedi, iskenderndme. 
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France, Ms. or. turc 309, fol. 

gives robes of honor to the nobles, who recognize her 
as their ruler and celebrate her enthronement. 21 The 
painting, originally representing a male, is therefore 
transformed into an illustration of the female ruler 

Some of the illustrations in the manuscript were 
created by reusing not whole paintings but fragments, 
which were repainted and assembled like a collage. 
An image in the third volume, for instance, consists 
of three different pieces and some overpainting. The 
exact subject matter of this "new" painting is not easily 
decipherable from its accompanying text (fig. 11). It 



Fig. 10. Humay sits on the Iranian throne. Tercume-i §ehndme-i Firdevsi. Istanbul University Library, T. 6133, fol. 728b. 


Fig. 11. Faramarz tries to convince Hum to go with him to the encampment of Rustam. Tercume-i §ehndme-i Firdevsi Istanbul 
University Library, T. 6133, fol. 594a. 



represents the meeting of Faramarz and the sage-hero 
Hum. The text relates how Faramarz, Rustam's son, 
tries to convince Hum to go with him to Rustam's en- 
campment before Afrasiyab (the Turanian ruler) and 
his army arrive. The devout Hum refuses and insists 
on staying at his place of worship, awaiting the enemy. 
Faramarz sets off to meet his father and Kay Khusraw 
and urge them to wage war against Afrasiyab. 22 A major 
part of the illustration, at the left, is probably from a 
historical Ottoman manuscript of the second part of 
the sixteenth century; it shows a person kneeling in 
front of a polygonal building with a cupola over a high 
drum. Three palm trees rise behind the structure. Two 
young attendants stand behind the kneeling figure, 
and two more men wait at the other side of the build- 
ing. In its new context, the building, which originally 
probably represented a mausoleum, has been recast 
as Hum's shrine. This main part of the illustration is 
accompanied by two smaller painted fragments on the 
right side, one overlapping the other. The lower piece, 
which relates stylistically to the main part on the left, 
depicts a horse with three attendants and a groom. 
The upper one, too fragmentary to be identifiable, 
shows parts of a man, a horse, and some tents in front 
of a hill, above which the artist has added two storks. A 
figure representing the protagonist Faramarz is pasted 
onto the center front. His face and the details of his 
armor are repainted, and a big feather is added to his 
helmet to provide him with an impressive appearance 
in tune with his heroic character in the narrative. In 
fact, this refurbished attire is used throughout the 
manuscript to transform ordinary figures into the 
celebrated heroes of the Shdhndma. The added dark 
green ground, extending from where Faramarz stands 
to the right-hand edge of the painting and roughly 
matching the original green ground to the left, joins 
and unifies the two parts. On the left, the artist has 
also added a third palm tree and a second cypress to 
enlarge the main fragment to fit the space left for the 
illustration. Another curious addition here and in other 
paintings of the manuscript is the modification of the 
turbans of the figures. Especially when the artist reuses 
Ottoman paintings, he carefully paints over the caps 
around which the turbans are wrapped, transforming 
them into longer batons (like the ones worn in Safavid 
Iran), considered more accurate for the Iranian char- 
acters of the Shdhndma. 

A further example of how cut-out images circulated 
amongst Ottoman manuscripts is evident in another 
eighteenth-century work, again a Persian classic trans- 



Fig. 12. Ibn Selam's envoy at the camp of Layla's tribe. Ter- 
cume-i Hamse-i Nizamt Istanbul, Topkapi Palace Library, H. 
1115, fol. 144a. 

lated into Turkish. The Tercume-i Hamse-i Nizami was 
copied in 1197 (1783), 23 but unfortunately the trans- 
lator's name is not given in the text. The paintings are 
taken from at least seven or eight Iranian and Ottoman 
manuscripts; some have been only slighdy altered, by 
expanding them to fit the space reserved for the paint- 
ing. At times, images are used "as is," without any addi- 
tions, but they are altered in their context: a princely 
figure on a hunt is transformed into Shirin hunting, 
disguised as a man (fol. 109b), and a school interior in 
a sixteenth-century Ottoman painting becomes a scene 
of Layla and Majnun at school (fol. 137a). 

Another scene, originally depicting Yusuf being sold 



to an old woman, has been modified to represent the 
envoy of Ibn Selam demanding the hand of Layla for 
his master, complementing the accompanying text (fig. 
12). Probably originally part of a copy of Jami's Haft 
Aturang, the reconfigured painting has become an illus- 
tration of a completely different story. To disguise the 
flaming halo of Yusuf, the area around the prophet's 
head has been overpainted in light purple, roughly 
matching the original color of the ground. Added 
tents scattered about the scene suggest the nomadic 
encampment where the event took place. 

The last example, from the same eighteenth^cen- 
tury Ottoman manuscript, consists of two fragments 
of paintings with different provenances, one of which 
has been enlarged at the top. The illustration depicts 
Khusraw listening to Shapur's description of Princess 
Shirin (fig. 13). According to the text, when Khusraw's 

ry,fj C0tC J>k CfdJLt 0yi&lf'^a/r*f>~*^\ 



Fig. 13. Khusraw listens to Shapur's description of Shirin. Ter- 
cume-i Hamse-i Nizami. Istanbul, Topkapi Palace Library, H. 
1115, fol. 112b. 

father wrongly suspected his son of plotting against him 
to seize the throne, Khusraw fled Iran, unaware that 
Shirin was on her way to meet him there. During Khus- 
raw's stay in Armenia, Queen Mihin Banu held many 
royal receptions for the prince. During one, in which 
musicians and dancers entertained and cup-bearers 
distributed wine in goblets of gold and silver, Shapur 
told Khusraw the story of Shirin: how she had fallen in 
love with his portrait, which Shapur had painted and 
shown to her, and how she had left for Iran to meet 
him. Residing in one of Khusraw's splendid palaces, 
she was suffering from loneliness and was saddened 
that she had failed to recognize the prince when their 
paths crossed. When Khusraw heard this story, he 
ordered Shapur to go to Iran and bring her back. 24 
The fragment pasted onto the left part of the paint- 
ing is from a sixteenth-century manuscript from Shiraz 
and depicts figures dancing in an interior. Although 
they resemble Sufis in a trance rather than dancers 
at a royal gathering, the artist must have deemed the 
image appropriate, since the text mentions dancers 
and musicians. The fragment on the right can be at- 
tributed on stylistic grounds to a late-nfteenth-century 
Shirazi manuscript. It shows a young enthroned ruler 
and an elderly figure talking to him, who must rep- 
resent Khusraw and Shapur. The faces of the young 
attendants have been retouched and the baldachin 
throne probably added by the artist-refurbisher of the 
composition. Since the event takes place during the 
wintertime, the ground has been covered with a dark 
color to indicate the season. 

This survey of "new" paintings created out of mi- 
grating images demonstrates that the dependency on 
canonical and trans-cultural imagery hardly prevented 
artists from interpreting illustrations from a different 
and personal perspective. Existing illustrations were 
used in a variety of innovative ways and integrated both 
physically and conceptually into new compositions. As 
the first group of examples illustrate, they became 
constituents of the artist's visual memory and enriched 
his iconographic interpretations. The second group of 
examples shows how the paintings themselves, both in 
their entirety and as fragments, were used in new con- 
texts. Islamic artists used these two methods to produce 
"new" images according to their contextual objectives 
and in accordance with the textual narrative. Judging 
by the examples at hand, the first technique — the 
adoption of certain visual codes or images belonging 
to an intertextual and intervisual network of common 
memory — was a wider phenomenon, whereas the sec- 



ond technique — the actual cutting-and-pasting of dif- 
ferent fragments to create pictorial collages — seems to 
have been used exclusively by Ottoman artists. Inter- 
estingly, this method was not current in the sixteenth 
and seventeenth centuries, when artists of the court 
and of urban ateliers were producing large numbers of 
illustrated manuscripts, ranging in topic from historical 
and literary to scientific works. Most likely, one of the 
main reasons for the artists' use of old images in the 
fifteenth and eighteenth centuries was the lack of an 
established tradition of deluxe book production. 

The migration of images by these methods created 
visual forms to be copied and refashioned in accord 
with new texts and new contexts to be illustrated, a 
phenomenon that deserves to be evaluated as a spe- 
cial form of creative activity overcoming the visible 
constraints on artistic expression. 

Hacettepe University 


1 ^ Serpil Bagci, "From Translated Word to Translated Image: 

The Illustrated §ehndme-i Tiirki Copies," Muqarnas 17 (2000): 

2 For this kind of discussion, see Deborah Klimburgh-Salter, "A 
Sufi Theme in Persian Painting: The Divan of Sultan Ahmed 
Galair in the Freer Gallery of Art," Kunst des Orients 2 (1977): 
43- — ► Serpil Bagci, "A New Theme of the Shirazi Frontispiece 
Miniatures: The Divan of Solomon," Muqarnas 12 (1995): 101— 

3 Cod. or. 57. For the manuscript and its paintings, see Ernst J. 
Grube, "The Date of the Venice Iskandar-nama," in Ars Tur- 
cica: Akten des VI. Internationalen Kongresses fitr tiirkische Kunst. 
Munchen von 3. bis 7 Sept. 1979, 3 vols. (Munchen, 1987), vol. 
2, pp. 536-39; Ernst J. Grube, "The Date of the Venice Iskan- 
dar-nama," Islamic Art 2 (1987): 187-202; Serpil Bagci, "Min- 
yaturlu Ahmed! Iskendernameleri: ikonografik bir deneme," 
PhD diss., Ankara, Hacettepe Univ., 1989. 

4. Fol. 12a. This rich mi raj scene, painted with precious pig- 
ments, follows fifteenth-century Timurid and Turkman models 
in its depiction of the Ka c ba and the city of Mecca, Muham- 
mad riding Buraq, and the sky filled with golden clouds 
and several angels. For a reproduction, see Ernst Grube, 
"A Unique Turkish Painting of the Fifteenth Century," in E. 
Grube, Studies in Islamic Painting (London, 1995), fig. 2. 

5. Deld'il-i niibiivvet-i Muhammedi ve §emd'il-i Filtuvvet-i Ahmedi, 
transl. Muhammed b. Muhammed e§-§ehir be-Altiparmak. I 
am grateful to Goniil Tekin for drawing my attention to this 
text and letting me consult the manuscript in Goniil and §i- 
nasi Tekin's private library. 

6 The Halilndme of Abdiilvasi Qelebi, a verse account of the life 
of Abraham, dedicated to Sultan Mehmed I (r. 1413-21), in- 
cludes a lengthy narration of the mi raj of Muhammad, where 
a similar event is mentioned. Halilndme: Abdiilvasi Qelebi, ed. 

A. Giildas. (Ankara, 1996), p. 453. 
7. Grube, "A Unique Turkish Painting," p. 191 

8 Ismail Unver, Ahmedi: iskender-ndme: inceleme-tipkibasim (An- 
kara, 1983), 11. 3105-52. 

9 A. George Warner and Edmond Warner, trans., The Shahnama 
ofFirdausi, 9 vols. (London, 1910), vol. 5, pp. 125-27. 

10. Rudolf Wittkower, Allegory and the Migration of Symbols (Lon- 
don, 1977), pp. 45-77. 
11 For the text, see Unver, iskender-ndme, 11. 3507-34. 

12. Topkapi Palace Library, H. 679, fol. 188b. 

13. Zakariyya al-Qazwinl, c Ajaib al-makhluqat wa-gharaib al-maw- 
judat, ed. F. Sa c d (Beirut, 1977), pp. 173-74. I am grateful to 
Dr. Ayman El-Desouky for his help with the Arabic text. The 
same adventure was also narrated in the Arabian Nights, this 
time attached to Sinbad the Sailor (Richard F. Burton, Plain 
and Literal Translation of the Arabian Nights' Entertainments: Now 
Entituled The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night, 12 vols. 
[London, 1885], vol. 5, pp. 50-53) attesting to the fact that 
Qazwini was not the only source that could have been used 
by the poet. However, concerning the visual vocabulary, one 
should consider the lavish production of illustrated copies of 
the Arabic and Persian c Ajaib, which would have been much 
more available to the painter's memory. 

14 Unver, Iskender-ndme, 11. 4181-4207. 

15. Vassali and fassali were the terms defining two techniques 
practiced by Muslim artists of the book. The first was used 
for rearranging papers on a new page, the other for setting 
margins in a manuscript or an album. See Yves Porter, Paint- 
ers, Paintings, and Books: An Essay on Indo-Persian Technical Lit- 
erature, 12-19th Centuries, trans. S. Butani (New Delhi, 1994), 
pp. 118-19. 

16. Ms. or. turc 309. For the manuscript and its illustrations, see 
Ivan Stchoukine, La peinture turque d'apres les manuscrits illus- 
tres, I: De Suleyman Ier a Osman II, 1520-1692 (Paris, 1966), 
pp. 45-46; Esin Atil, "Ottoman Miniature Painting under Sul- 
tan Mehmed II," Ars Orientalis 9 (1973), pp. 106-7; Ernst J. 
Grube, "Notes on Ottoman Painting in the 15th Century," Es- 
says in Islamic Art and Architecture in Honor of Katharina Otto- 
Dorn, ed. Abbas Daneshvari (Malibu, 1981), pp. 52-53; Francis 
Richard, Splendeurs persanes: manuscrits du Xlle au XVIIe siecle 
(Paris, 1997), p. 47. 

17. Unver, iskender-ndme, 11. 3243-48. 

18. Unver, iskender-ndme, 11. 8625-40. 

19. T. 6131, T. 6132, T. 6133. Ivan Stchoukine and Fehmi Edhem, 
Manuscrits orientaux illustres de la Bibliotheque de VUniversite 
dlstanbul (Paris, 1933), p. 24 

20. The Istanbul University Library has been closed since the 
earthquake of August 17, 1999. From that unfortunate day 
on, not even microfilms of manuscripts have been available. 
Therefore I was unable to reexamine the volumes, and I can- 
not give comprehensive information on the content of the 
text. I rely on the notes I took at the library several years 
ago, realizing that they are hardly sufficient for a thorough 
insight into the text of the manuscript, which deserves a de- 
tailed study. 

21 In Firdawsi's Shahnama, Bahman (the son of Isfandiyar) 
is dying because of an illness, and although he has a son 
(Sasan), he appoints his daughter and wife, Humay, with 
whom he is passionately in love, as his legal heir. Humay, 
who is pregnant, ascends to the throne and, being a powerful 



and ambitious sovereign, continues to rule even after she gives 
birth to Bahman's son, the future Shah Darab. She lays her 
baby boy in an ark made by the most skillful carpenter of Iran 
and sends it off in a river (Warner and Warner, Shahnama of 
Firdausi, vol. 5, pp. 290-96). The story differs in several details 
in the Istanbul University Tercume-i §ehndme: Azer (Bahman's 
brother?) kills Bahman together with a dragon and sends his 
body to Iran. Since Bahman does not have a son to succeed 
him, the nobles choose his pregnant wife as their ruler. The 
translator adds, with reference to "some traditions," that Bah- 
man was married to his own daughter, which was allowed by 
the "Pahlavi" religion. The veil worn by Humay seems to be 
one of several Ottoman additions. The rest of the story, how- 
ever, parallels the original Shahnama (T. 6133, fol. 728b). 
22. T. 6133, fol. 594a. The story of Faramarz and Hum in the 
Turkish Tercume-i §ehndme is markedly different from that in 
Firdawsi's original. Hum plays an important role in the exe- 

cution of Afrasiyab in the Shahnama :, where he is introduced 
as a sage living on a mountain who coincidentally finds Afrasi- 
yab in a cave and captures him. Unlike Firdawsi, the "transla- 
tor" of the Turkish version puts specific emphasis on Faramarz 
here and in several other episodes, which suggests the influ- 
ence of a Fardmarznama text. Cf. Warner and Warner, Shah- 
nama of Firdausi, vol. 4, pp. 259-69. 

23. Topkapi Palace Library, H. 1115. Another volume of the Ter- 
cume-i Hamse-i Nizami in a private collection features similar 
calligraphy. It was published by Geza Fehervari in "An Illus- 
trated Turkish Khamsa of Nizami," in Fifth International Con- 
gress of Turkish Art, ed. G. Feher (Budapest, 1978), pp. 323-37. 
Unfortunately, it is not noted if the paintings are original or 
pasted. However, one of the paintings in particular (fig. 8 in 
Fehervari's article) seems to be a collage of two fragments. 

24. Tercume-i Hamse-i Nizami, Topkapi Palace Library, H. 1115, fol. 
112, aandb.